Full Chisel Blog

October 7, 2013

Spinning Wheel Flyer – grain orientation

This is my first order for a custom made spinning wheel flyer, mandrel, whorl, and bobbin[s] for an existing wheel.  The owner sent photographs with a measuring tape and confirmation of the distance between the leather bearings.  They can be ordered here.

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While it may look like this is just using up some useless scraps of maple with nasty knots, this wood was chosen because of the knot and the way the grain runs in the board.  The grain runs around the knot in such a way as to follow the pattern of the U shape of the flyer.  It is also a great use for useless scraps.

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The wood, in this case hard maple, for any flyer should be flat sawn and not quartersawn for proper grain orientation for maximum strength; no short grain as would be presented if the board was quartersawn.

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A hole for the mandrel is drilled in the end of the board, a corresponding hole is made in the opposite end, and are used to center the wood on the centers of the lathe.  Excess wood is first removed with a saw then it is turned on the lathe.  This can be a harrowing experience as the flat board flies past ones knuckles at an alarming and distracting manner.

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Because of the unusual grain around a knot the finished flyer off the lathe has some nasty splits along a couple of edges, but because the ends of the flyer are tapered thinner, this can be ‘easily’ planed off, then scraped with a card scraper.

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After raising the grain with water, I scraped it again and it is ready for the mandrel being made by a machinist friend of mine.  Now it is on to making the hooks and the soft metal nut in the whorl.


September 20, 2013

Extrapolating Furniture Parts from Photographs

I first received an email with a photograph of a walnut table leg, early nineteenth century [client said 1860’s, I think it is 1840’s] dining table from Virginia and was asked if I could make one as the 5th [center] leg was missing.  I said ‘yes’ and got a couple more photographs with a tape measure in the photograph.  Another email or two and I had other dimensions I needed.

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I then made a scale drawing of the leg and worked on that until it looked correct and then proceeded to make a full size paper pattern of the leg.  With the help of Richard MacDonald [Master Wood Carver, who loves to turn] turn the leg from the pattern.

I then ripped the waste wood on the taper of the octagonal part, to a square taper.

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Next I layed out the octagonals with a white pencil, easier to see on walnut than a graphite pencil.  I planed the first one by hand then decided to use a chisel to quickly remove the excess then my two small coffin smoothers [one set coarse, the other set fine] to smooth out the rough chisel marks.

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A card scraper finished up the flats and it is ready to go.  Yesterday when the client called I had just finished up the work, it will be picked up today and be on its way to Texas.  They have a furniture restoration guy there that will cut it to length and do the finish work.

A fun project, the rendering took a bit of time but was well worth the effort and the customer was happy, just picked it up.


June 17, 2013

Blow Pipe Bellows

This has been on my list for a while and now I can cross it off.  It is based on a traditional design and is a typical two chambered bellows powered by a foot treadle.  I over thought the design and got retentive about vortices and valve placement, but was told not to worry about those things by a physicist.

I had some 1″+ thick pine, I used one piece of full thickness for the center board then had my apprentice re-saw the other board into two 1/2″ boards, one for each chamber.  Also had him hand plane the surfaces smooth [again worried about the smoothness and air currents].

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The leather for the bellows is oak tanned and quite thin, the pattern for the bellows needs to be offset to account for the fact that when it is open the moving boards are shorter than when closed, typical of bellows construction.

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I used the same leather for the main hinge and for the internal valves.  The center valve is inset in a rectangular shallow mortise to give more room in the upper chamber.  The entrance valve is mounted flush as the board is only 1/2″ thick.

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I used an old piece of flat spring steel that I fashioned into a spring to push the lower chamber back open after the foot pedal is pressed.  The weight of the lower board will also help open the chamber as the leather softens up a bit after use.  In my too-much-attention-to-detail, I inadvertently mortised the space for the spring on the wrong side, fortunately the center board was thick enough to accommodate the mortise on the correct side.

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I glued a small piece of leather on the hinge end to hold things together and eventually with both side leathers become the bellows hinges.

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The first side I glued and tacked on by myself, it was such a gluing frenzy that I ended up with glue in my beard.  I used Lee Valley Fish Glue because of its aggressive tack to glue the leather to the board.  All edges of the boards were smoothed and toothed with a toothing plane, glue applied to both leather and boards.

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The second side I had help from my apprentice and it went much more smoothly and after 226 tacks [total for both chambers] it was complete.  I then went on and made the base which consists of a board for the bottom and three uprights mortised and tenoned into the base and glued in place.  I then began on the treadle.

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Once again I was over-thinking the foot treadle design trying to come up with a mechanism that would push up on the bellows when the foot treadle was pressed.  I looked through 507 Mechanical Movements from Tools for Working Wood for inspiration.  One of those slap my forehead moments when I saw an illustration of a see-saw, teeter totter.  Push down on one side and the other goes up.

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A metal hinge simply would not work for the fulcrum of the treadle so I settled on leather held in place with round head screws and glue.  The end of the treadle that pushes against the bellows, I inserted a wooden wheel in a slot to reduce friction.

I hooked it up to a hose and blow pipe and it works as advertised.  Fun project now to find a buyer.



June 3, 2013

First time working Cypress

One would think that having done woodworking for over 40 years I would have worked this wood before, but this is the first opportunity to work this particular species of wood.  I got some scrap pieces from a friend, I had told him I had not used the wood before so he gave me some cut off from a bathroom counter top he is making.

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Needing a new home for my soft Arkansas sharpening stone, I decided to make it from cypress as my others were made of pine.  Having worked a lot of pine, I thought that cypress would behave in a similar manner.  Much to my surprise it worked more like poplar than pine, with little end grain collapse of the softer spring wood.  I liked how it cut under a chisel, the router plane made smooth work of the inside mortise and it stood up well under a hand plane.

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In making the box I noticed that the stone was not symmetrical, one end was slightly wider than the other.  I fit it tight in the bottom but had to make the top a bit loose in order to fit on the stone in either direction.

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On the bottom of the sharpening stone box I used a long fine cut headless brad, pounded it in then cut it off with pliers to form small points to prevent it from slipping when in use.

I will not put a finish on the cypress and as you know I never use lubrication when I am sharpening only when I am cleaning the stone.

I generally keep my shavings separate and put them in my compost pile, however not the cypress, it won’t decompose.


May 3, 2013

The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer’s Guide – J. Stokes 1829


Gary Roberts over at Toolemera has done it again and reproduced a fine tome from the nineteenth century.  The book has many full color plates, hand colored engravings and Mr. Roberts has reproduced the entire book in color, so the pages appear as they would in an original edition.

Mr. Stokes has done an excellent job at assembling material from his peers and predecessors, which I won’t call plagiarism as it was common practice.  Some of the engravings have the long f for the s, indicating an earlier time.

The book is however full of very useful information about lay out, perspective, drawing, design and construction of furniture, with an emphasis on finishing, which I found fascinating.  This is a great hardbound edition of an historical work that is a pleasure to hold in ones hand and read about the past and the ways of old.  Add this one to your bibliotheque.


January 11, 2013

Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker – First Review


This is the first book review of my first book that was originally published in hardbound in 1981.  This review appeared in Smithsonian Magazine April 1982.





I found this while doing research at the University of Nevada, Reno at their excellent library.

Now I need to find the reviews in Workbench Magazine, Soldier of Fortune Magazine and Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly.

Available at Tools for Working Wood

and The Full Chisel Store or from Amazon.  Amazon also has original hardbound editions for sale.


September 9, 2012

I made a spokeshave to make a spokeshave

At the risk of repeating myself, that is exactly what happened.  I only noticed it after I was finished making the large spokeshave.  I used a small spokeshave that I made to make the large spokeshave.  I also made the saw to cut the throat and Mark Schramm made the burn auger to make the square holes for the tangs of the spokeshave blade[s] he also made.

While I was at it, I used a piece of horn from the horn spoons to add a wear plate to the small spokeshave.  It is dovetailed into the body and held in with Fish Glue.

I will be teaching a class to the Nevada WoodChucks next week in Reno and we will be making this traditional tanged spokeshave.  Always a fun trip.


May 9, 2012

Barry & Way – New York 1847-1849 ,1″ Skew Rabbit Plane

I picked this up  recently at a local antique stores, it stood out from a few other later nineteenth century planes, first its low price $16.00 and second it just had a look, the chamfers are a little bolder.  An American plane from this time period is a good find.

It has a W. Butcher laid steel blade and it has been used.  The edge has been sharpened and the tail end appears to be broken off.  The wedge is also damaged.

It is a nice plane, too nice for me so it is for sale, I have another bit newer skew rabbit that I use now.

A previous owner J.KRITTER.

I am not sure what it is worth but I will take offers.


April 30, 2012

Traditional Quilting Frame – tension mechanism

With the exception of the two strips of cloth that needs to be attached to the two 10 foot axles, the traditional quilting frame is complete.  The strips of cloth will be held with carpet/upholstery tacks, alder [Alnus spp.] is known for its tack/nail/screw holding properties.

I fitted each gear to the axles and marked them for ease of reassembly.  The gears need to match on each of the axles.  The gears are timed or clocked, so the pawls hold the gears in the same place on each end of the axle.

With the gears on each end of the axles and the axles installed in the frame, I positioned everything and marked the screw holes for the pawls.  I used a gimblet bit to drill the screw shank holes and a 2 burr countersink for the heads of the screws.  I made 4 small leather standoff washers and installed them between the pawl and the frame.  Instead of marking every hole, I positioned the pawls to mesh with the gears properly.  I put a bit of Moses T’s St. John’s Oil on the areas of fresh worked wood.

This project tested the limits of my small shop, with it set up, I can barely make it through the door.


April 29, 2012

Traditional Quilting Frame – gears, pawls, & a bench

I am making this for a friend and with the help of George Merrill, I got it done in record time.  Here is a picture of the quilting frame bench.  You can see the frame here, and the gears in an early stage here.

Constructed of knotty alder, the legs are mortised and tenoned into the seat and held with wedges, all construction is glued with hide glue.  It is finished with Moses T’s St. John’s Oil.

Here are the gears and pawls, I will drill, countersink and install a stand off washer of leather.  The gears have to be timed or clocked so they match up on both sides, I will mark them so they can be installed in the proper position when set up.

The gears come off for storage, so it is important they go back on the the proper position.  Need to make arrangements for the cloth to be tacked on both axles and it is ready for delivery.

If anyone is in need of a traditional wooden quilting frame, please let me know.



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